How has the parking situation changed in the center of Weirs Beach over the years?
A busy day on Lakeside Avenue circa 1930. All the parking spaces seem to be taken!
A rum runner parking on Lakeside Ave, 1933. Notice the bullet holes in the door.
Cars parked in front of the New Hotel Weirs in 1921.
Street scene, 1910s
In the 1910’s, cars, passenger trains, freight trains, electric street trolleys, and even motorcycles all vied for their share of the street. There were no organized parking rules.
As many as SIX sets of tracks severely constricted parking. First there was (#1) the main railroad line from Boston to Lincoln – the only tracks still present today. Two sidings (#2 & #3) directly in the center of town allowed freight or passenger cars to idle while the main train passed by. As one entered Weirs Beach from the South, a freight spur (#4) (see below) descended underneath the railroad station to a freight house, from where freight was transfered directly to the lake steamers of the time. (Click here to see a 1930’s aerial view of these 4 sets of tracks.) The 1923 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, below, shows exactly how these 4 railroad tracks were configured.
Freight spur (track #4)
In addition to all of these, from 1899-1924, the tracks of the Laconia Street Railway (#5) (see below) extended along Lakeside Avenue as far as the Lakeside House. The Laconia Street Railway also had a siding (#6) in the center of town to allow idling electric trolley cars to be bypassed.
The three sets of railroad tracks (#1,#2, & #3 – to the left of the utility poles) and the two sets of trolley tracks (#5 & #6 – to the right of the utility poles) can be clearly seen in the old postcard below. Click here to see a similar card.
Another postcard view of the tracks.
A trolley car is seen on the siding (track #6). However, the siding track itself is not seen. The siding must have branched off from the main trolley track further down the street.
The first tracks to be removed were those of the Laconia Street Railway (#5 & #6), which were promptly removed in 1925 after the electric trolley ended service to Weirs Beach. (Although the electric trolley had ceased operations, the Laconia Street Railway continued to operate buses in the summertime to Weirs Beach until 1960.)
Lakeside Avenue, 1925. The trolley tracks were gone, but all the train tracks were still there. Click here to enlarge the photo and for another photo and more info.
Next to go was the freight spur (#4) under the railroad station, which was removed in 1940, following the late-1939 fire which destroyed the 1893 vintage station. In August 1946, one of the two sidings in the center of town (#3) was removed, while the other (#2) was cut back. The purpose of removing the “third” railroad track was “…so there will be more parking space when the widening of the street is completed”, according to a newspaper article of the time. The other siding (#2), which had originally rejoined the main line at the Lakeside House, now rejoined the main line a few feet north of the railroad station, as can clearly be seen in this 1950 aerial photo and in the mid 1940s photo below.
Click here to enlarge this mid 1940’s photo taken from the footbridge to the Winnipesaukee Marketplace
On June 22, 1952, the railroad officially decided to “retire” the last siding. Before the following spring, the railroad had removed siding #2, leaving only the original, #1 main line running through Weirs Beach. On April 9, 1953, the railroad sold the land where siding #2 had been, to the City of Laconia, so additional parking could be developed on Lakeside Avenue.
A Canadian Pacific train cruises through Weirs Beach in 1953.
This photo can be accurately dated as having been taken between 1953-1955. Click here to enlarge and for a bonus picture.
This “aero view” postcard shows the parking in the 1930’s. Photo by Harold Piper. Click here to enlarge.
Click here to enlarge this 1940’s linen postcard and to see a similar view in 1961
By the early 1940’s the railroad canopy was gone, having burned along with the attached Weirs Cafe, the old steamer Mount Washington, the public wharf, and the public docks on December 22, 1939. The old electric trolley tracks had long been removed. Yet, with two sidings and the main passenger tracks still in the way, cars continued to park as they had before — perpendicular to the tracks on the East (Lake) side of Lakeside Avenue, and parallel to the curb on the West (Land) side.
By the late 1940’s the sidings had finally been removed in the center of town. With only the single, passenger set of railroad tracks remaining, cars began parking in a denser pattern. On the East (Lake) side of Lakeside Avenue, double parking was allowed, with one set of cars parking perpendicular to the curb, and another parking right behind at an angle. (Presumably there was an attendant nearby to juggle cars as neccessary.) On the West (Land) side of Lakeside Avenue, cars parked at an angle to the street. With heavy demand for parking, and commercial and public parking lots in the area yet to be developed, the front lawn of the Half Moon Cabins was often drafted into use as a commercial parking lot. (Howard Ballou, the owner at the time, advertised in a 1950 Lakes Region Association brochure not only “19 Modern Cabins” but also “Parking for 175 cars”.) The photo below was taken September 14, 1947.
The early 1950’s brought one of the strangest looking parking arrangements yet. On both sides of Lakeside Avenue, one row of cars parked parallel to the curb, while another row of cars parked at an angle to the center of the street. The front lawn of the Half Moon Cabins continued to double as a commercial parking lot. The photo below was taken circa 1950. Click here to SuperSize the photo.
In the late 1950’s – early 1960’s, parking in the center of town basically reverted to the earlier, 1940’s pattern: i.e, on the East (Lake) side of Lakeside Avenue, cars parked (mainly) perpendicular to the street, while on the West (Land) side, cars parked at an angle. Development of the Tower St parking lot (on the right of the photo, behind the green Tarlson’s building on the corner) as well as other commercial and public parking facilities in the area relieved the neccessity of double parking in the center of town, while the Half Moon Cottages (no longer “cabins”) now limited parking to guests only.
Additionally, at the behest of businessman Sidney Ames, owner of the Half Moon, the City of Laconia added parking meters in 1956 in an effort to keep parking spaces turning over and customers flowing into the area. The Laconia City Council’s unanimous vote to add meters, on May 24, 1956, was supported by numerous area businessman, including notably, James R. Irwin, but was opposed by about 40 Weirs residents, who felt the meters were “unnecessary and unlikely to solve the traffic problem.”
(Parking meters had first arrived in downtown Laconia and Lakeport during the summer of 1947, following the signing of a contract on April 14th with the Duncan Meter Corporation of Chicago, maker of the Miller meter. In 1947, the cost to park downtown was 5¢ an hour. The downtown meters lasted 25 years. They were gone by the end of 1972, about a year after the Laconia Retail Merchants Association had first requested their removal. In 2022, parking is still free in downtown Laconia, although after 50 years, there are now plans to reintroduce paid parking.)
By the mid 1960’s, parking in the center of Weirs Beach had basically evolved to its current pattern: angle parking on both sides of Lakeside Avenue. Also, the crosswalk on the North side of Lakeside Avenue, rather than proceeding straight across the street, had shifted, angling across the street to take a shortcut to the Winnipesaukee Pier. (The crosswalk would shift back to going straight across the street in the mid 1990’s.) Meanwhile, the Half Moon Cottages had added an 8-unit Motel in 1964, becoming the Half Moon Motel & Cottages.
The below photo from 1989 shows that although parking had remained the same as it had been since the mid-1960’s, the surrounding core Weirs Beach businesses had not been standing still. The 1940’s era train station had been replaced; the Mount Washington had been lengthened; the Winnipesaukee Pier had added a miniature golf course; and the Half Moon had extended its shops and arcades all the way to the corner of New Hampshire Avenue, while the Half Moon Motel & Cottages had added a second story to its motel, as well as a swimming pool.
The photo below shows the parking configuration in 2012. Parking had changed very little from the 1989 photo above. The only change was the crosswalk on the right. In the mid-1990s, the crosswalk had been relocated from crossing diagonally to crossing straight across Lakeside Avenue. This resulted in an additional 3 parking spaces.
In 2017, Lakeside Avenue was completely updated during the Lakeside Avenue Project. New crosswalks were installed between “bumpouts”. Once again, the crosswalk at Tower Street shifted. Instead of crossing straight across the street, it now crossed diagonally to the bumpout in front of the Weathervane restaurant. The crosswalk at New Hampshire Avenue now also crossed diagonally, from the bumpout in front of Half Moon Pizza, to the bumpout in front of the train station/cruise ticket office. The parking configuration basically remained the same, however, minus 3 parking spaces that were needed to accommodate the bumpouts. Modern parking kiosks replaced the 1956-vintage parking meters. Below is an aerial photo taken in 2018 during Motorcycle Week. (The centerline parking of motorcycles is temporary and only allowed during Motorcycle Week, when cars are banned from the street.)